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Hoops Rules Score $4.4 Million at Auction, Topping Custer Flag

A tattered, stained silk flag from General George Armstrong Custer’s calamitous last stand failed to generate as much action at Sotheby’s in New York yesterday as an 1891 two-page typed list of 13 rules for a new game called “Basket Ball.”

The red-white-and-blue cavalry guidon, or swallow-tail flag, recovered three days after the 1876 Battle of the Little Bighorn, sold to an unidentified phone bidder for $2.2 million, at the low end of its presale estimated range of $2 million to $5 million. The seller, the Detroit Institute of Arts, will use the funds for future art acquisitions, according to a Sotheby’s press release.